I hear the water in the basement—
it’s different than the water
on the sidewalk, on the grass:
it thinks, it remembers, it asks why
we haven’t moved away, what keeps us here
year after year, mopping and hoping,
straining our shoulders
All May it rained upriver,
brought the farmers of Nebraska
to their knees until they seemed
like statues caught in prayer forever,
until their corn, sagging from skyweight,
died away. All June we waited
for the River to concede and let it go.
We no longer pray;
we know we live in an unfortunate world,
surrounded by whim and words
like maybe. We’ve gathered
what we need to be within it—
our pills and trinkets, dollar bills
in plastic bags, the silk fan
my mother brought from Hattiesburg
after the war.
I bought a car
that promised paradise and sex
and maybe being forgiven
for my multitude of sins.
I bought a car to take me all the way
to Oklahoma, California.
I bought a car
and thus the first of several
forays into danger. In Iowa
a woman called Sue
harangued me with notions of Mars
and “new plantations.”
No idea. Where Omaha meets
the highway again I asked
a listless, righteous Baptist for directions.
Friends: we’re slowly dying
in our automobiles, pivoting through
Kansas, making the Great Plains
smoky and obtuse. I was,
of course, a boy who hoped for
paradise and sex, knowing clutch
and power steering, Madeline and Denise,
Margaret and May. A church glowed
at dusk on the Utah border. A man
emerged, an American flag
in his hand attached to a stick,
a sign touting Pancake Breakfast,
the Armory on Sinclair Avenue, $5.
I drove on. Somewhere Sadie was America,
all lip gloss, root beer, and need.
A blowjob, nobody’s disappointed.
In a room at the Rattler Inn, maybe
Boise or maybe Montana, I turned the TV
to Channel 4, the better world emerging.
A chef in Kansas City, a chef in Traverse City.
I love you, America.
I bought a car and came so far
it seems the only dream’s
the dream of being elsewhere.
About the Poet
Carl Boon is the author of the full-length collection Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His poems have appeared in many journals and magazines, including Prairie Schooner, Posit, and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University.